Friday 10 April 2020

Lockdown Day 18 - Remembering the Camargue

Back in 2016, we took a holiday in the south of France. I am not one for hot weather, in fact I really quite struggle with it, and so we chose to visit the south coast in the Easter holidays when it was around 20 deg C (68F). Although we have travelled extensively in northern Europe this was the first time we have visited the Mediterranean, and we spent a few days in Marseille and also stayed in Arles. Arles is famous for the amazing Roman amphitheatre in the middle of the town which is still used for events and the Camargue form of bullfighting where the bullfighter picks a ribbon      from the bull's head and no harm is done to the bull. The fighters appear to be local celebrities, and one restaurant we went to (Le Tambourin) has the costumes of local bullfighters as well as trophies and memorabilia as well as very nice local food!

Whilst in Arles, we hired a car and went out for the day to the Camargue, the world famous wetlands and nature reserve around the salt pans on the coast. The main attraction here is the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) and they are all over the place around the reserve! In fact by the end of the day they were, well, almost quite unremarkable - we'd seen so many!

I believe this to be a Hairy Hawker dragonfly (Brachytron pratense) 

We came across this lovely creature when walking through the nature reserve from the visitors centre. I think you can just make out on the photo that it is just finishing up eating a fly while we were watching it.

This species also occurs in the UK and is on the wing from April to June.

 When we stopped at the visitors centre we were watching these Common Wall Lizards (Podarcis Muralis   L├ęzard des Murailles) scurrying about or sunning themselves on the walls. 

During our time in the Camargue there were many species of bird that were new to us, the first birds we saw were a tree full of Night Herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) , Great White Egrets, a Cattle Egret, several species of Warbler, a Great Grey Skrike, an Osprey and Caspian Terns on migration, and a local rarity being a Slender-Billed Gull which only breed in limited numbers in this part of the world. 

Another surprise was a Coypu that we saw diving off a bank into a water filled channel. Once introduced to various parts of Europe or escapees from fur farms, they have become established in the Camargue but are really quite destructive to vegetation and bankings and efforts are made to eradicate them due to their effect on the wider ecosystem.

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